Friday, July 22, 2016

An "age-old prejudice" (the last acceptable one)

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek
     "As for our jovial Christian kin, delegates to the Council of Mâcon in 585 submitted for discussion a book by Alcidalus Valeus entitled Paradoxical Dissertation in Which We Attempt to Prove that Women are not Human Creatures.  Paradoxical?  In what way?  We do not know if the attempt was successful; i.e., if Alcidalus won over his readers.  But the Christian hierarchy was already sympathetic to his point of view:  we need only recall Paul of Tarsus and his countless [(innombrables)] misogynistic pronouncements.  In any case, the church’s age-old prejudice against women remains to this day an undeniable fact [(une sinistre actualité)]."

     Michel Onfray, Atheist manifesto:  the case against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Jeremy Leggatt (New York: Arcade Pub., 2007), 104.  "age-old prejudice" is not in the original French of the Traité d’athéologie (2005), but only "la prevention de l’Église à l’endroit des femmes" (though the utterly unfounded ahistorical scorn is quite evident).  See Adeline Gargam and Bertram Lançon, "La querelle sur l’âme des femmes aux XVIe-XVIIIe siècles:  sources et retombées historiographiques d’une mystification (VIe-XXIe siècles)," Revue d’ histoire ecclésiastique 108, no. 3/4 (2013):  655 (626-658), underscoring mine.
     The Disputatio nova contra mulieres qua probatur eas homines non esse
  • was first published in 1595 (Bayerische StaatsBibliothek:  "1195 [i.e. 1595]"), not the sixth century (!) (630);
  • was translated for a second time into French by Charles Clapiès as the Paradoxe sur les femmes, où l’on essaie de prouver que les femmes ne sont pas des creatures humaines in 1766 (643), but Paradoxe was never turned into the adjective paradoxale nor coupled with the two descriptors the book bore in Latin (disputatio and dissertatio) (655n1);
  • was only falsely attributed to Valens Acidalius (656); and
  • referenced an extremely obscure provincial synod that may or may not have been held in Mâcon and whose easy brief passing refutation of the opinion of an obviously embarassingly ignorant single bishop has been transformed into an important and hard- (in the sense of only very narrowly-) won canonical decision (656).
As for "the latent misogyny of Paul, it is neither frequent nor maledictory, but very ordinary and, for a Roman citizen of the 1st century, rather moderate" (655n131).

     "the persistence of the legend of Mâcon, although long since as deflated as a [punctured] balloon historically [speaking], is an indication of the 'evidentiary' force that a 'received idea' can have [(la force d'évidence que peut avoir historiquement une idée reçue)], and demonstrates that since the time of the Reformation it is on the terrain of sexism that the offensives directed against Catholicism are [always] launched [(se portent)], as if one sees in [sexism] its Achilles' heel" (656).

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